One question everybody needs to ask themselves when watching Hostel: “Why did I pay for a ticket to watch a movie about torture and murder?” If you are willing to ask yourself that and answer with an honest response, then you will be willing to accept that Hostel is not just a dumb horror full of nudity, sex, drug references and explicit violence. Be aware, this critique/review is full of spoilers.
Hostel isn’t about plot, as it’s main concerns are to gross you out, to cross genres and to criticize our morality. Blood and gore are to be expected, and Hostel delivers. However, if you are a horror fan, this is like a walk in the park. It’s most disturbing moment, when Paxton, our hero in the movie, is asked by a Japanese hostel-mate to cut her hanging eyeball off, is as effective as an effect from a Troma movie if you weren’t buying the material to begin with. If you were not freaked out, you would be laughing your ass off. Either way, it’s just plain gross. However, its yuckiness isn’t the highlight.
Hostel is perhaps the bravest horror film in recent years. Actually, to call Hostel a horror film is rediculous. The film crosses genres with astounding energy and it doesn’t let you go until the final shot fades to black. The movie starts off as a “Eurotrip” type movie, full of nudity and naughty humour that makes teenyboppers around the world giggle. The main characters aren’t the nicest character nor are they the most dependable people to hang around with.
But whatever, they are fun people with good sense of humour. We stay with these characters for about 40 minutes and yet no one is killed or tortured. All we see are heavy drinking, drug use, sex trade, and myriad flashes of glorious boobies. Give this film to another director and every main character would be dead by this point. But Roth, the new poster boy for modern horror (who’s as big a yapper as Quentin Tarantino), is willing to wait and create a sex padadise for these boys. What comes next is a nightmare turned reality.
One second they were on the set of an innocent sex comedy, and now they are locked in a chair with “surgeons” fully ready to cut them apart and/or open (depend on whatever satisfies their desire). The jump is effective, only because we have spent so much time on the main character in the first part of the movie. What follows is a series of torture sequences what will make testicles shiver (and if you are a girl, your ovaries).
Luckily, our main hero Paxton escapes from his torturer, saves the Japanese girl with the eyeball mess, and drives off and get on the much delayed train-ride home. So the horror portion of the movie is over, let’s move on to a revenge flick! How about that? For the next 15 to 20 minutes, Paxton will pay a visit (accidently) to everyone that has done him and his friends wrong, and eliminate them all. Unfortunately, the Japanese girl dies, but you win some, you lose some, right?
So what started off as a sex-filled roadtrip comedy, turns into a dreadful and gritty horror, which then turns into an action revenge movie. Hostel jumps from genre to genre, seperating itself from every other horror films out there. Roth made it look all too easy. The last good mainstream genre-mixing horror franchise is probably Scream (or Blair Witch Project, but it’s not… well, good), a fusion of slasher and who-dun-it…
The greatest part of the movie, even better than its genre-crossing ability, is the moral statement and social commentary. I am sure a lot of people will over look this because Hostel appears to be a dumb pointless horror on its surface. But let’s jump back to my original question: Why did you pay for a ticket to watch a movie about torture and murder? Were you looking for pleasure from watching people getting hurt?
If so, then you should do some comparisons with the characters and yourself. You are paying for pleasure off of people getting hurt, yet it is socially acceptable. So what happens if killing someone is socially acceptable? Hostel is about selling pleasure for money and how far will we go to satisfy our own desire. For kids, pleasure is bubblegum. For the main characters, it’s sex. If paying money for sex is social acceptable, then would killing and torturing someone being acceptable as well if the government allow it? Afterall, the police were part of it too, according to the movie.
This is why the first part of the movie is important. What appears to be a series of harmless sex scenes, is a thematic device used to show the audience how much fun and pleasure you can get, either it’s sex, drugs, alcohol, or museum of torture. The film even made it clear that you are buy all these things if you are willing to spend. When the horror chapter of the movie comes, it’s not just pointless torture sequences.
These murder and torturing scenes are metaphors. It is comparing simple pleasure such as sex. If you are willing to pay for sex, for pleasure to be exact, then would you kill someone if you can pay for it and get away for it? What makes it so morally wrong if it’s allowed? This really shows how corrupted our world is, and how low humans can go. What’s ironic is after going through the torture chamber experience, Paxton himself turns into a killing machine. See evil, be evil.
Eli Roth is quite a clever screenwriter. Though his dialogues are plain and his visual flare is lacking, he makes up for it with creating horror through simple human reactions (Cabin Fever with paranoia, Hostel with pleasure). Every horror director can make you jump with random orchestra noises or hissing kittens, but not every horror director can make a moral statement. And the morale of the movie? Paying money for sex is like paying bubblegum to street kids so they can bash your enemies’ heads onto the concrete floor. Oh yeah, and rich people paying money to kill/torture.
P.S. Fans of Japanese horror should watch out for the cameo of Miike and a homage to Suicide Club.